What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?
I am president/accountant/floor scrubber [at Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids, Mich]. This is my second startup venture in the brewing world. I sold my ownership in a nearby brewery several years back and slowly planned my return. This time my wife is my business partner and we took three years carefully planning our project. We have a focus on exactly what we want to do with our brewery, and how we want to go about doing it. More important in having that focus is in knowing what we do not want to do this time around. Sometime the hard part is knowing what to say no to.
What’s new at Brewery Vivant?
Pretty much everything is new, since we have only been open for about seven months. Most recently we have gotten our canning line up and going, which has enabled us to get beer out to a lot more areas. Michigan being a big outdoor sports state lends itself to canned craft beer well. The cans have been well received by campers, hikers, boaters, and golfers who love that they have the option to take some good beer along with them more easily.
What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?
Brewers are all such an interesting lot; part artist, part entrepreneur, and usually part crazy. Even though everyone has a different take on things, they are always willing to share knowledge or lend a hand if you need it. That makes it a pretty fun industry to be a part of.
What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?
Try to sleep. My wife and I had a baby boy, Oliver Saaz, nine days after the brewery opened. Seems there is always something that needs changing, tears that need to be wiped, or feeding to be done. Oh, and the baby needs things too.
What’s your favorite food and beer pairing?
Our chef made a duck confit served with a Michigan tart cherry demi-glace that we paired with a barrel-aged sour beer that I still dream of. Also Hook’s Seven Year Sharp Cheddar from Wisconsin paired with a snappy Belgian IPA hits the spot.
What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to your job?
Having our son was quite a life changer and is the biggest focus I have. Becoming a dad is a pretty amazing thing.
What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?
I just had a beer from Dark Horse Brewing called Sahti where they chopped down a tree from their land, carved out the trunk to make a coolship, and cooled wort over juniper berries for three days and let some wild fermentation take hold. Did I mention brewers are crazy?
What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?
My wife and I took a trip through northern France and southern Belgium to visit some small farm breweries. Talking with brewers there, drinking their rustic beers, and soaking in the countryside is still like a dream for us.